April 10, 2014

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Sizing up Kevin Durant’s MVP Season

By: Matt Bowen

Kevin Durant is the best basketball player on the planet. Right now this statement can’t be argued. This is fact. What he’s doing this season is nothing short of genius. On a nightly basis his pure dominance emulates the greatest players in history.

Kevin Durant

Will Kevin Durant be holding the NBA MVP trophy at the end of this season?

No, Durant hasn’t led the Oklahoma City Thunder to an NBA title yet but that will happen this season. His game can’t be contained. He’s a masterful puppeteer and his opponents are simply on strings. His recent streak of 41 straight games with 25-plus points is the third longest streak in NBA history.

Before we move on sit back and let that stat sink in for a second.

Only Wilt Chamberlin and Oscar Robertson have had longer streaks. 41 games! That’s half a season straight with that kind of production. To be considered a star scorer in the NBA, a player must average 25 points/game for the season. This season Durant is averaging a whopping 32 points/game. Not since Kobe Bryant in 2005-06 has a player averaged more. To put his year in perspective, Carmelo Anthony led the league with 28.66 points/game last season. In the game where he scored less than 25, he scored 23 and only shot the ball 13 times. He also didn’t play in the fourth quarter. That fact shows how selfless Durant is—individual accolades mean nothing to the man; resting up for a title run is everything.

Durant is only 25 years old—to think that he’s still 2-3 years way from his true prime is silly. We haven’t seen the best of KD yet and that is ridiculous. This season he has shot 50.8 percent from the field. For a shooter such as himself to make half of his shots over an entire season is impressive.

His numbers in his age-25 season are comparable to the great Michael Jordan in regards to scoring. Keep in mind that the game has changed a bit from Jordan’s day—the 3-pointer is the preferred currency of the NBA these days. Through 76 games in 2013-14 Durant has taken 1,564 shots, 457 of which are of the 3-point variety. In 81 games in his 25-year-old season Jordan took 1,795 shots, 98 of which were threes. Durant’s shooting percentage beyond the arc is 40.5 percent compared to MJ’s 27.6. Yes, Jordan shot 53.8 percent from the field in 1988-89, but only 5.4 percent of his shots were threes. A staggering 29.2 percent of Durant’s shots are from the long line. Jordan averaged 32.5 points/game compared to Durant’s 32. Keep in mind we’re taking about Jordan—arguably the greatest to ever play the game.

To think that Durant’s career isn’t following the path of Jordan’s is preposterous. Now, six rings may be out of reach but it’s not impossible. Durant’s shot is silky smooth, true poetry in motion. He’s averaging 34.6 points/game since the start of January.

This being said, there’s no denying he’s the best. He has no ceiling. Expect nothing less than a ring at season’s end.

February 19, 2014

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NBA Second Half Predictions

By: Joe Williams

The NBA’s All Star break is officially in the rear view mirror and the trade deadline is just a couple days away. So now seems like a good time to take a look at what lies ahead this season.

Once again, the trade deadline will be a lot of talk and a lot of disappointment for the fans hoping their team will make a big splash. Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, Pau Gasol and other big names have been rumored as possible trades. But they aren’t going anywhere. As always, we’ll have a few solid players finding new homes but nothing that is franchise altering. Everyone is waiting for that to happen in the draft.

Milwaukee is well on its way to having the most balls in the draft lottery. The real “battle” will be between Philadelphia, Orlando, Sacramento, Boston, Utah and the Lakers so make sure they get the second or third best chance to win the first pick in the draft.

Philadelphia 76ers

Many teams, like the 76ers, are already looking to 2015.

The division winners will be Toronto, Indiana, Miami, Oklahoma City, L.A. Clippers and Houston.

Indiana will finish with the best record and home court advantage in the Eastern Conference. Miami will not care. The Pacers want to play at home. Miami wants to be healthy for the playoffs. Both teams will get their wish, setting up a tremendous Eastern Conference Finals.

Miami will not pull off the three-peat. Sooner or later their ability to turn it on and off at will will be over. They are next-to-last in allowing a 51.6 effective field goal percentage. Defense wins championships right? There is no D in Miami right now and it will come back to haunt them in the playoffs.

The other stroll (I can’t call it a race when all the teams are under .500) to watch is whether Michael Jordan’s Bobcats can hold off the Knicks and Cavs to make the playoffs. These teams have been unintentionally terrible and need to reach the postseason as they try to gain some much needed respect (Bobcats), try to keep Carmelo (Knicks) and lure LeBron James (Cavs).

In the Western Conference the Thunder have been the best team and are about to get Westbrook back. They’ll be the top seed. But the Spurs, Rockets, Clippers and Blazers are going to be in a fight for the 2-5 seeds. Meanwhile, Dallas, Golden State, Phoenix and Memphis are all playing well, but someone’s going to be left out.

Kevin Durant will be the MVP. He’s led the Thunder to the best record in the league – and done it without Russell Westbrook for just about the whole season. Durant is having a career best season in scoring, assists, and shooting. He is on a mission.

In the NBA Finals, I’m seeing the Indiana Pacers taking on Oklahoma City and as long as Westbrook is healthy and returns to his old form, the Thunder winning the title.

May 6, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Lebron James wins 4th MVP award: Widely regarded as the best player in basketball, the Miami Heat’s Lebron James won his fourth NBA Most Valuable Player award. The award put him in some elite company – the only other players to win as many were Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, and Bill Russell. There was little doubt that James would win the award as he was the best player on the best team in the league, and the vote was nearly unanimous (one voter chose Carmelo Anthony as the winner). A good case could have been made for Kevin Durant, who led the Oklahoma City Thunder to 60 wins this season and averaged more points than James. But in the end, Durant finished second and my vote would have gone to James, too.

Will Adrian Peterson break the single-season NFL rushing record in 2013?

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. wins. Again. Big surprise, right? Floyd Mayweather, Jr. moved to 44-0 after disposing of Robert Guerrero in a unanimous 12-round decision this weekend. Guerrero was a worthy foe, but the win was a fairly decisive one for Mayweather, who had a 117-111 win on all three of the judges’ scorecards. He didn’t deliver the knockout that many pay-per-viewers wanted, but the important thing is that he remains undefeated. Mayweather now plans to fight again in September and the only question at this point is who will get the next shot to knock off the champion.

College athletics a losing proposition? The NCAA recently completed a study, the 2012 Revenue and Expenses Report, which showed that athletic departments are spending more money in expenses than they are generating new revenue. More importantly, perhaps, is that only 23 Division I schools reported a profit. That’s nothing new, though some fans may be surprised to hear that plenty of major universities lose money on sports. Even if a school has a big time football program, that money is often used to help support other non-revenue sports. And when you factor in salaries of athletics department staff and coaches, facility-related expenses, and scholarships, breaking even isn’t the easiest thing to do.

Adrian Peterson sets lofty goal for 2013: Last year, Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson nearly broke Eric Dickerson’s long-time NFL record for most rushing yards in a season. The running back not only wants to break the mark next year, but shatter it. Peterson recently said in a Sports Illustrated interview that his goal is to reach 2,500 yards. On the surface, that appears nearly impossible. No other running back has even come close to that total and with Peterson’s big season last year, opposing defenses will be doing all they can to shut him down. And when you factor in that he would need to be fully healthy all year, it’s difficult to expect that much out of him.

SEC Network announced for 2014: ESPN and the SEC announced a new 20-year deal to broadcast games last week. As a part of that package, the two sides will launch a 24-hour/day SEC network that will air football, basketball, and baseball games, as well as other events. With the B1G already airing games on its own network and the ACC reportedly making plans to do so as well, conference networks are becoming the norm. One of the biggest benefits not specifically related to revenue is that smaller sports will get a bit more coverage. Non-revenue programs should draw a bit more interest from fans that may not have paid that much attention to them in the past.

Warren Moon says Tim Tebow not good enough for CFL: Football Hall of Famer, Warren Moon spoke recently about Tim Tebow in a radio interview and his comments were a bit surprising to say the least. There are plenty of ex-players that don’t think Tim Tebow is a legitimate NFL quarterback, but Moon isn’t even sure Tebow can play in the Canadian Football League. Even though the CFL is a significant step down from the NFL, Moon doesn’t believe that Tebow can pass well enough to play in the league. Moon makes a valid point in that the league is high on aerial attacks, but what he doesn’t factor in is that the level of competition in the CFL isn’t what it is in the NFL. Since he’s been in the NFL, Tebow has completed less than half of his passes. But in college, where the competition wasn’t as difficult, he completed nearly 70%. Tebow may not be a great passer, but the guess here is that he’s capable of having success in the CFL if he ever decided to go that route.

April 29, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

NFL Draft: The popular NFL Draft was held over the weekend and it was, as usual, a big attraction. The true popularity of the league was on display as millions and millions tuned in over the three-day event. The NFL not only has the most popular on-field product in American sports, but has managed to nearly turn its draft into a national holiday. One of the big surprises was West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith falling to the second round. Smith, once considered a potential No. 1 overall pick fell and fell … and fell. But when it was all said and done, he landed in a pretty good spot with the New York Jets. Starter Mark Sanchez has fallen out of favor for a couple of years now and backup Tim Tebow is rumored to be released. Smith should have a chance to not only play in 2013, but win the starting job.

Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers signed a five-year, $110 million extension to remain with the franchise.

Russell Westbrook out for NBA Playoffs: The Oklahoma City Thunder caught an unbelievably tough break when starting guard Russell Westbrook went down with an injury in Game 2. He suffered a tear in his knee and will miss the rest of the season after having surgery on Saturday. Westbrook is often the subject of criticism for his questionable shot selection, but he still averages 23 points a game. And his seven assists and five rebounds per game make him one of the more complete point guards in the league. Once considered a team that could knock off the Miami Heat for their first NBA title, I’m not even sure OKC makes it out of the western conference now.

College football sets playoff system: College football and the BCS announced their plan for the new playoff system set to begin in 2015. Six bowl games will rotate sharing semifinal games – The Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, Orange, Chick-fil-A, and Cotton. Each year, two of those bowls will host the semifinal games while the other four will hold significant BCS-type games. The first title game in 2015 will be held in Cowboys Stadium. The real winner in all of this? The fans. Not only will there be a four-team playoff, but there will be two additional big time games. Currently, there are the four major bowl games and the BCS Championship. But now, there will be a total of seven major matchups. And in addition, the two semifinal games and the remaining four contests will be held during New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Two tripleheaders over the holiday should give you plenty of reasons not to leave your couch.

Rick Pitino gets tattoo: Yes, this is real news … just go with it. Rick Pitino promised his Louisville Cardinals team he’d man up and get a tattoo if they could win the National Championship. That happened and Pitino didn’t back down. Here’s a picture of it. Not great, but not horrible, I suppose. And props to the coach for not going with a small one-inch tattoo on his ankle or something.

Aaron Rodgers signs new deal with Green Bay Packers: In a move that could keep their star quarterback in a Packers’ uniform for the rest of his career, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers signed a five-year, $110 million extension to remain with the franchise. If he plays out that contract, he would remain in Green Bay for the next seven seasons, through 2019. That would keep him in a Packers jersey until he’s 38. He could play longer, of course, but if nothing else, the bulk of his playing career should be in Green Bay.

UNLV plans Jerry Tarkanian statue: The Las Vegas Sun reported that UNLV is planning a statue for former head basketball coach, Jerry Tarkanian. Tarkanian, recently elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame, and the school have been on the outs for a while with the relationship mending a bit in recent years. And the coach had long been targeted by the NCAA for a variety of issues involving his teams. But wherever you come out on Tark, the one thing that can’t be debated is his ability as a head coach. He won more than 80% of his games and led UNLV to the 1990 National Championship.

April 22, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Boston Marathon bombings – Obviously, the story of the week in sports (and in all other news, for that matter) were the bombings in the Boston Marathon. Not much to say here other than it was a horrific event. But the thing that should be recognized is the hard work of the police and FBI to not only identify the suspects so quickly, but catch them. Great work by all involved.

Already the NBA's scoring champion, can Carmelo Anthony add another championship this season?

NBA Playoffs begin – The NBA’s postseason has begun and several teams are out to 1-0 head starts. We’ve got a long way to go, but my postseason prediction at the beginning of the year was the Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder. I’ll stick with that pick. Each have the talent, offense, and young legs needed at this time of year.

Revis Island will get new address in Tampa Bay – Star cornerback Darrelle Revis was traded this weekend from the New York Jets to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the No. 13 overall pick in this week’s NFL Draft and either a third or fourth-round selection. Rarely are stars traded for first-round picks (particularly in the upper half of that round), but it’s also rare to get a player who may be the best at his position in the middle of his prime. And since Tampa Bay was dead last in pass defense in 2012, giving up just under 300 yards per game, this move will clearly bolster their secondary. Revis missed much of last season after suffering a torn ACL and the injury has to be a concern for the Bucs. But while he got the big money he sought with an extension, signing for six years and $96 million, if he returns to his former self, the trade will have been a good one for Tampa.

Death of Pat Summerall – Legendary sports broadcaster Pat Summerall passed away last week of cardiac arrest at the age of 82. Though he covered a variety of events such as the Masters and US Open tennis events, Summerall is best remembered for his work as an announcer alongside John Madden for football games, including the Super Bowl. Many, though, forget that Summerall actually played for several years in the NFL, primarily as a kicker. Along with Madden, he became one of the staples in pro football.

Carmelo Anthony wins first scoring title – It’s not as important as what he’ll do in the NBA playoffs, but New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony secured his first scoring title averaging 28.7 points per game. That was just good enough to top the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant, who checked in at 28.1. Melo has always been a bit in the background of the other 2003 NBA Draft picks, Lebron James and Dwyane Wade, but that could change this season. If he’s somehow able to propel the Knicks past the Heat juggernaut, he could win his first title. That may still not be enough to push him past Wade (who has two rings) or James (largely considered the league’s best player), but it will put him in a special class of superstars with an NBA ring.

Midnight Madness could start sooner – The NCAA passed a new rule that will allow teams to practice up to six weeks before their first regular season game instead of the four that was previously allowed. That won’t make a huge difference but one interesting note is that it will likely push the date of the popular Midnight Madness up a bit earlier.

Shamed Rutgers coach Mike Rice gets $475,000 in settlement – Now infamous basketball coach, Mike Rice, received $475,000 in a settlement from Rutgers for being fired before his contract was up. Rice, if you’ll recall, was fired after video surfaced of him verbally and physically abusing players. Rutgers president, Robert Barchi, stated the coach could rightfully be fired for bringing shame to the school. Rice clearly did that and, to be honest, I’m surprised he got as much as he did. If you’re the head coach, it’s hard to complain about a parting gift like that after you verbally berated your players and were lobbing basketballs at them. Want to know the worst of it, though? Rice is reportedly coaching an AAU girls’ basketball team. I’m all for second chances, but if this is true, it’s hard not to question it being allowed so soon after the Rutgers videos surfaced – and with 12- and 13-year old girls no less.